Last week I reflected on some of the posts the other blog authors have written that had a lasting impact on me. Today, because I’ve written a lot here over the past seven years and I feel good about at least some of it, I’m going to talk about some of my own posts. I hope this doesn’t come off as overly self-indulgent but over these years some themes have emerged in my posts and a look back has helped me get perspective on what matters to me.
Anti-diet then, anti-diet now. When we first started blogging, I was really clear that I wanted to present an anti-diet message. To me, the most basic feature of a feminist approach is that we encourage body positivity and discourage punishing diet regimes, the sole purpose of which is to lose weight. One reason for that is that I myself had a history of chronic dieting and it usually resulted in misery, food obsession, body hatred, and all manner of bad feelings about myself. Within the first week of the blog, I wrote a post called “Tracking and the Panopticon,” in which I expressed my dislike of tracking because it feels like a tool of internalized oppression (to me)–where we self-regulate and monitor ourselves in order to keep ourselves under control. I still feel that way, though not quite as strongly as I did then. I can see how, if used for information, it can be a good way to collect data. But it does strike me as a type of food policing, where we appoint ourselves as our own police. I’ve also articulated why I never talk about weight or food choices (mine or others) and why “you’ve lost weight, you look great!” isn’t a compliment.
Food police have got to go. I have kept up that anti-dieting and anti-food policing theme throughout the years. I’ve talked more than once about why food is beyond good and evil. And about how to avoid another new year’s diet (with suggestions for alternatives to save ourselves grief). I had a good rant when someone issued a headline reporting that a study had said eating fried potatoes would shorten your life. I wrote about why every day is “eat what you want day” because, though it took me 27 years, I am fully committed to intuitive eating. That’s where you eat what you want, when you want, in the quantities you want. No, it’s not for everyone. But it works for me. And when I say “works,” I mean it makes me feel relaxed about food, in tune with my body, and good about myself.
Do less and start small. Another favourite theme of mine that emerged early on was the theme of doing less. My first post about that, “On doing less,” explained how in my fitness activities and in my life more generally, I can get overwhelmed with big goals. But then I can make them manageable and I can motivate myself to get into a rhythm of consistent effort if I scale back. Instead of an hour of yoga a day, how about 20 minutes (or, as Christine is doing, seven minutes)? Just something to say I showed up and did it, whatever it may be. Doing a little bit consistently is better than establishing overly ambitious goals and then abandoning them altogether.
Not too long ago I picked up that theme again in “Tracy’s winning formula: consistency and forgiveness.” I feel as if seven years of blogging about fitness and mining my life and the media for material has demonstrated to me that it’s an ebb and flow. Sometimes I’m really on task, training for a goal, hitting the workouts regularly. And other times I’m injured, or ill, or travelling, or busy, and I fall out of routine and need to forgive myself and then start again. I firmly believe that the best advice anyone can give anyone about fitness: start small. You cannot go wrong (I need to re-read that one because my Achilles injury has taken me out and I need to do something more than yoga or I will lose my cardio fitness even more than I did when I blogged about my lost cardio fitness a little while ago). My do less, start small approach also goes a long way to explaining “why I don’t resolve” on January 1st.
Sleep and rest. This is a thing I’ve come to value over the years. I have never been very good at permission to get the rest I need. I adore sleep and naps, but I don’t always get them. I’m a big fan of The Nap Ministry, promoting naps as political — a form of resistance (against capitalism, racism, “the grind”). I wrote about the Nap Ministry more than once this year, sending myself if no one else a clear message that burnout was on the horizon.
Community. Seven years ago when we were just starting out, I didn’t do fitness activities with people. I mean, I went to yoga classes and felt a sense of community around the studio, but I ran alone, more or less weight trained alone or with my partner, and swam alone if at all. Part of that was because I didn’t think I was athlete enough to be a part of any fitness community. I worried that I was the slowest runner in the world and I would never find my people. Well, that turned out to be false! Over the past seven years, I’ve ridden bikes with people (I hated that lol, but I liked the social parts), trained in the pool with a group (loved it), and discovered that there are others — wonderful wonderful others — who run at my pace. I talk about that shift from solo traveler to lover of community in “In praise of community.” Others can be great company and also motivating points of accountability. I loved it when the media people last year talked about the “pact” Sam and I made to be our fittest at 50. I had never thought of it as a pact, but that is exactly what it was. I blogged about that in “the power of the pact.”
The book. Last year in the spring and summer Sam and I were basking in the warm feelings of the book. It felt so good to see the book that we’d worked on together in actual print, getting attention from real people, and media not just in Canada but also in the US, the UK, and Australia. At the beginning of what would be an exciting time of interviews and podcasts and book launches and readings, I wrote about “Soaking up our 15 minutes.“
Doing things I never thought I’d do. From completing not one but two Olympic distance triathlons (Bracebridge and Lakeside) to running a marathon (a whole one!), I have done things over the last seven years that I never imagined when Sam and I began our fitness challenge in 2012. Shortly after my 50th birthday, I wrote a post entitled, “I did it! Reflections on achieving what once seemed impossible”. I like reading this post again because it gets me back in touch with that feeling of amazing myself. It’s the sort of thing you want everyone to feel. I amazed myself again, last fall, when I hit my 10K personal best (see “have you amazed yourself lately? Tracy consistent effort and see where it takes you (aka Tracy’s epic 10K)“). I also amazed myself with my boudoir photo shoot late last year. It was fun and I liked the results. I don’t think that is something I’d have felt comfortable doing back in 2012 when we started the blog.
A time to rant. I’m not a big ranter, but I can rant when the time is right. Over the course of seven years, I’ve had some occasion to unleash some ranty opinions on this blog. Like, “Do you have to be active to wear active wear?” (do not get me started on the clothing police). And I’ve ranted (but in a low key and possibly even a bit constructive way) about vegan protein sources at restaurants (it’s getting better). And of course, there are a few rants about diets, such as “Newsflash (not): most meal replacement shakes aren’t meal replacements.” Sometimes it’s more fun to rant together, like last month when Cate and I went on about harmful messaging.
Blogging about the blog. We try to keep it open and welcoming here, but things aren’t always happy. We blog about difficult issues and on occasion we say things that hit the wrong note with some people. We aim to be inclusive, but not everyone always feels included. There have been times that I or others wrote posts that made readers angry. One such time was when I proposed that I might dump sugar. Oh wow. That didn’t go over well at all. But the response caused me to reflect and back track. And as I re-read my “dumping the sugar dump: critical follow-up” post, I could see that (1) I was still stinging, but also that (2) I was doing my very best to work through and take seriously why it was probably not a good idea for me to voice that thought on this blog.
It’s funny (not really funny, but odd) how much it hurts when we get attacked by our readers. It happened again a few months ago on the FB page (this time Sam was under fire, on the receiving end of vitriol) and when we tried to intervene to bring it back to a civil discussion, we were then accused of “tone policing.” In the end, it prompted me (and Cate in her beautiful post, “What are we making together?”) to reflect once again on the blog and the community around it and what we can and cannot promise. In the end, I realized that we cannot promise a safe space, and I reflected on why that is the case in “Why we can’t promise a feminist space will be a safe space.” It might be one of my favourite posts of my own because it is a layered reflection on feminism as I see it playing out in my life, on the blog, in the world.
This reflection on my own posts is kind of random and on a different day might be different. I haven’t mentioned the one that’s gotten the most hits of all, “She may look healthy but…why fitness models aren’t models of health.” That and “The Shape of an Athlete” are two of my posts from the early days that challenge our assumptions of what it means to “look fit.” That has been a major theme on the blog since the very beginning, not developed just in my posts but in the posts of the others as well. Posts on bodies and body image are consistently the most read content on the blog, and gave us early evidence that this blog contributed a welcome perspective on fitness.
I’m adding “being a part of this incredible blog” to my list of things I never could have imagined doing in my life.